Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Americans' Gun Obsession

As a Canadian returning from 20 years in the USA, I am often asked why Americans have an obsession with guns.  About one in two Americans have guns, and the death statistics for guns are eye-popping.

I am no expert, but I have some opinions on why most Americans love guns and are afraid of any restrictions on them.

  1. Most Americans are actually in favour of increased gun control, however they are drowned out by fervent gun supporters.  Few people want bans, but the majority would support laws that limit magazine size, mandate background checks, and limit access to silencers and automatic weapons.  However, most of these restrictions were soundly defeated in recent years.  Most Americans are more concerned about their money than guns so elections are won and lost on economic issues.
  2. The fervent gun supporters are organized by the NRA,which is expert at manipulating the USA's democratic process.  The NRA is supported by gun manufacturers and members.
  3. There is a whole mythology in the USA about the righteous citizen with a gun, defending his house, family, himself, and the American Way in a society that is full of criminals or "bad hombres" according to President Trump.  Think about the old movie "Death Wish" starring Charles Bronson.
    1. Many Americans believe that violent crime is increasing, and they don't want to wait for police to deal with criminals, they believe they can do it themselves with guns.  Statistics actually show crime is decreasing, but never mind.
    2. Many Americans believe that their government is evil, based on what they have heard for years from Fox News, the Republican Party, and websites like Breitbart.  They believe that they can keep the government at bay by owning guns.
    3. It is macho to own guns.  The idea that you can kill anyone within 100 yards whenever you want has appeal to many.
  4. There is a fear, stoked by the NRA and Republicans, that to give any concession on gun regulation with start a landslide that will end with gun bans.  Better to energetically oppose any measure, no matter how reasonable, than to give an inch.  How else can we explain the NRA's opposition to not allowing people on the no-fly list to buy guns?  If they are too dangerous to fly, why is it OK for them to buy AR-15's with 100 round magazines and ammunition?
  5. The Second Amendment is often cited as a reason for all the guns, but it is just an idea on an old piece of paper.  If Americans did not want guns, they could repeal the amendment just like they repealed the Prohibition of alcohol.  The second amendment is cited like the bible to justify guns, but ignore this distraction, lots of stuff in the constitution and the bible are ignored because Americans have different desires.
  6. There are many Americans who enjoy hunting and target shooting with guns.
The latest mass shooting will not cause any changes in gun laws, in my opinion.  It will take a much higher body count of innocent victims caused clearly by unregulated guns for the majority of Americans to shake off their apathy and put some common sense gun laws in place.

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